A Texas jury on Friday ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit brought by the parents of a child killed in the shooting. at Sandy Hook School in 2012.
The additional damages come a day after the same jury awarded $4.1 million in compensatory damages to Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, and brings the total amount to be paid to nearly $50 million, although this may be reduced as Texas state law caps non-economic damages. .
Jones, a far-right media firebrand, has courted controversy for years on InfoWars, his website and his radio show. The Sandy Hook cases pose the first significant financial threat to Jones and his company — which together are estimated at $270 million, according to an expert witness who testified on behalf of the parents.
Wesley Ball, an attorney for the parents, urged jurors on Friday to “send a message” with their punitive damages award: “Stop Alex Jones, stop the monetization of misinformation and lies.”
“I’m asking that with your verdict, you don’t just take down the Alex Jones platform he’s talking about,” Ball added. “I’m asking you to make sure he can’t rebuild this rig.”
Lewis and Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was killed at Sandy Hook, had sought up to $150 million in damages for emotional torture, saying their lives had become a ‘living hell’ by strangers who had sent them death threats and who mistakenly believed the couple had faked the death of their own child based on Jones’ comments.
They sued Jones for falsely claiming that the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed, was a staged hoax to justify gun control.
During his testimony, Jones admitted that he spread lies about the deadliest school shooting in the United States, claiming it was a “100% real” operation and not a a “false flag” operation, as he had long claimed. He also expressed remorse for “unintentionally” hurting people’s feelings.
Jones faces two other lawsuits related to her Sandy Hook comments. One is being brought to Connecticut by the families of eight victims, and the other will also be in Texas.
Jones, whose content was banned from major social media platforms for hate speech, commands a large audience of more than 8 million monthly visits, according to data firm Similarweb.
Last week, Jones’s Free Speech Systems, the parent company of InfoWars, filed for bankruptcy protection in a move potentially intended to limit its financial exposure.
During the proceedings, a lawyer for the plaintiffs revealed that Jones’ legal team had inadvertently shared two years of messages from his phone, adding that he had received requests to share the messages with various authorities, including the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6. 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.
On Friday, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said she would not prevent the plaintiff’s attorneys from sharing the messages with law enforcement or the Congressional Jan. 6 committee.
Additional reporting by Alex Barker